Search Continues For Hundreds After Mudslides In Southern California

Rescue crews continued to search for survivors amid the mud and wreckage of Montecito's massive debris field on Thursday, but acknowledged that the window to save lives is rapidly closing. At least 17 people died and dozens of residents are still unaccounted for.FREDERIC J. Fire and sheriff's officials hovered over a map spread across the hood of a truck while a fire crew made up of inmates loaded trucks for another day of debris removal.

"They're not going to find survivors anymore".

"And there's a very strong likelihood, given the amount of destruction and the amount of homes that are still inaccessible that there still could be people alive or dead in those other homes". Sixty-five homes confirmed destroyed and more than 400 damaged.

The mudslides were triggered by flash flooding on Tuesday after the first rain hit ground scorched by wildfires in December.

Brown also said authorities are expanding mandatory evacuation zones in the area because pedestrians and traffic are hindering rescue and fix operations. "We think somewhere in the debris field". Rescue workers were searching on Thursday for more missing people.

Most residents of mudslide-ravaged Montecito were under orders to clear out Friday as the search for victims dragged on and crews labored to clean up massive debris and fix power, water and gas lines.

Excavators carrying rescuers in their buckets ploughed through mud-coated roads in search of the missing after some areas were buried in as much as 15 feet (4.6 m) of mud, emergency officials said.

Next to some of the devastated areas sat large estates untouched by the torrent, their lawns still green and the landscaping lush.

"The mud just." she said, her voice trailing off.

In some cases, the deluge seemed to split families as well as homes.

Josie Gower held onto a door frame when a devastating river of mud rushed inside her Montecito home.

The five missing people included Fabiola Benitez, the mother of Jonathan Benitez, a 10-year-old killed in the flooding.

ROY ROHTER, 84:Rohter founded St. Augustine Academy in Ventura in 1994 and was described as a man dedicated to his Catholic faith and to helping others. His wife and son survived, the report states.

But as the images below show, the mudslides left the length of the street uncrossable and covered in mud and water.

Caltrans crews are working to fix inundated portions of Highway 101, but the freeway isn't expected to be reopened until Monday at the earliest, according to CHP Capt. Cindy Pontes.

Sheriffs deputies carry a body from the debris near Hot Springs Road in Montecito on January 9.

Rescue crews worked up to 12 hours a day and risked stepping on nails or shattered glass, or being exposed to raw sewage, or dealing with leaking gas, Mr Page said.

In addition to the dead and injured, 65 houses have been destroyed while another 462 sustained damage. An additional 1,500 homes remain threatened. A boil-water notice remained in effect for the Montecito Water District, officials said, and rescue personnel were concerned that those who survived the slide but remained trapped soon could run dangerously low on supplies.

"Roads were clogged throughout the region with mudflows shutting down more than 30 miles (50 kilometers) of the 101 Freeway on Tuesday and knocking a number of homes from their foundations".